FirstGroup issues trading results

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First reports improved profitability across its bus business for the last year. It has recently started rolling out a new grey and purple corporate colour scheme. RICHARD WALTER

For the 53 weeks to 30 March 2024, FirstGroup reports a material increase in profit, which it says is driven by continued progress in both First Bus and First Rail. The Group reports an increase in Group adjusted operating profit to £204.3m, up from £161m in the previous year, and a final dividend of 4p per share recommended.

Key developments at its First Bus division included 1.14m passenger journeys a day, up from 1.07m in 2023, and 167m service miles operated, down from 168m the previous year, although a number of operations were reduced, most notably in Southampton, in the course of the year.

Passenger volumes increased 7% on a like-for-like basis, the Group says, supported by £2 fare cap in England and free travel for under-22s in Scotland, giving a total revenue of £1,012m, up from £902m. The division’s adjusted operating profit margin grew to 8.3% for the full year.

The Group also acquired the York Pullman business during the year, and was awarded contracts by Transport for Greater Manchester. Around 300 electric buses were delivered during the period, almost doubling its fleet of electric vehicles, which now account for around 13% of First Bus’ overall fleet. Working with local authorities, First secured £16m of ZEBRA 2 funding for the next financial year.

The Group says that the 2025 outlook remains in line with expectations, and that the First Bus operations are expected to achieve a progressive growth during the year.

Commenting, Chief Executive Officer Graham Sutherland said: “We have made considerable progress in our financial and operational performance in FY 2024 as we continue to transform and grow our leading First Bus and First Rail businesses. This is testament to the resilience and capability of our people across the Group and leaves us well positioned to grow and create further value for all our stakeholders.

“Our focus remains on working with government and all our stakeholders to deliver for our customers and drive modal shift. We will continue to lead in environmental and social sustainability, including building out our adjacent electrification opportunities in First Bus, and investing to grow and diversify our portfolio to ensure our business remains profitable and resilient in the long-term.”